Making virtual rain clouds with their hands is just one fun thing that eighth graders can do while learning about the earth with an augmented reality sandbox.

The three dimensional interactive augmented reality sandbox at Oneonta Middle School was built by eighth grade science teacher Cory Raner.  It is used to teach students about geographical formations and topography.

The sandbox looks like a large projector with a box of sand instead of a glass plate. When the lights are off and the machine is on, the sandbox becomes a three dimensional map, showing mountains, rivers, and valleys in colors that signify terrain. Raner dug into the sand and instantly a new valley was formed. As he held his hand over the augmented reality sandbox and allowed sand to fall between his fingers, simulated rainfall created blue rivulets that flowed into the blue areas for lakes and rivers. .

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“A lot of students struggle seeing contour maps in two dimensions. When they see it in three dimensions, it comes together,” said student teacher Tom McNamee.

“It’s giving a way to engage and play with it. They have eureka moments translating from paper to reality” Raner said.

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